Did you ever have an adult tell you to 'go away and play'? This line was delivered to me in one of two ways. Firstly, there was the 'Get out of my hair' type dismissal, and one would flee to the safety of the latest den or reading corner (in my case!). The other was a gentle, 'Go with innocence and enjoy it' - almost with a a wistful sigh. When we play, we are at our most open to experimentation and the exploration of ideas, and failure is not a word which haunts us, rather, we evolve and develop to produce better. Really, aren't these the best conditions for us to 'work'? The concept of 'playing' rather than working is brilliantly expanded in John Williams' book: "Screw Work, Let's Play" - an inspiring read for anyone who has been glum because of the daily grind, and put off the dreams that they've had for an uncoventional working life. 'Players' do not consider 'work' as work, because they have built into their career the types of tasks that feel like 'play' to them.
If the world is to move into collaboration, creativity and innovation as its new revolution; that is, after industial and massproduced, we must learn, or rather relearn, how to play.
There is a focus in schools for a certain outcome, a resulting qualification for students. That is to achieve the best grades they are able in external examinations recognised by regulatory bodies. This gives us a standard by which others can measure our academic capability and potential. It makes it easy for employers to see who is 'better', because they have more/some/thousands of letters after their name.
This will fall down where mass production is no longer the aim. If creativity becomes the prime driver, we must learn how to stand out in a different way.
If creativity is required of the next generation, they will be taught to approach life one way for their years in education, and potentially a different one for their working life; they will need to relearn creativity for themselves.
Playing allows us to explore, to problem-solve but not be pressured. Much of my working life has been spent near to the edge of fear, worrying about mistakes and wondering if what I do is good enough. Fear of employees slacking off as soon as a back is turned creates a rule of law, it keeps us stuck to our desks, working through lunchtimes and watching the clock.
Google, of course, are one of the most famous companies with a scheduled 'playtime'. Their Fridays are set aside for employees to have space to try out new things, create new projects and mix with the people they don't usually work with. The crucial mindset that goes with it is this: It's ok to 'fail', it's ok to explore, try out and give it a go.
I assume the aim of target-driven environment is to increase productivity, yet perhaps it creates a pressure which is unhelpful. Not just in terms of falling below a standard; there is no room for error. The target is supposed to balance the highest potential output with that which is still attainable (this isn't always the case), but in reality this has one of two effects. Firstly, those that fail to reach the desired target feel a measure of failure, when there may be many factors outside his control which led to this failure. Secondly, those that achieve their target have achieved all they need to, so they sit back and relax. It does not take into account an individual, and the journey they must go on to get there.
For some people, the concept of play does not appeal, they do not celebrate this freedom. Rules and targets are the basis of their output. Good. There is a place for that. But for those of us who have an itch of creativity, we cannot pretend we are them. We must have our time to 'go away and play'.